Death does strange things to people. I don’t mean to the people who die. I mean death does strange things to the people who are left behind. We recently remembered the dead in All Souls Day Masses, but these Masses are very different from modern reflections on death where we are more likely to hear things like, “Rest in peace Grandma. Say hi to Grandpa and have fun winning every game of Bingo in Heaven!” and “I can see Uncle Joe now, sidling up to the bar and doing shots with his Army buddies!”
Loved ones are publicly ushered into the next life by those who cannot imagine life without them and cannot imagine life better than our best days here.
But that is not how death works.
In these statements, those left on earth treat death as though the afterlife is a simple extension of how we live on Earth. Think about that for a bit. Is that really what you want?
No matter how wonderful life here has been, an eternity lived for Bingo and shots must seem shallow and tiresome eventually. Doing even our favorite things over and over and over again presents something of a Groundhog Day existence. Winning Bingo, drinking with the guys, enjoying endless sunsets on the beach, all we can think up becomes more reminiscent of a King Midas curse, where everything turns to gold, than an eternal blessing. That is because an eternity spent getting exactly what our human minds are limited to is limiting, maybe even stifling.
Eternal Happiness Requires God’s Love and Creativity.
From the beginning, God created man to die. You are not meant to live an eternal life of earthly existence located in another realm. Life is not a Marvel movie. You do not simply jet from life on earth to life in another dimension and continue on as if nothing had happened.
When the Garden of Eden was closed to humanity, God stationed His Angels, from the high ranking Cherubim class (Gen. 3:5), with their flaming swords to repel man from eating from the tree of life. This is not because God does not want you to live eternally, because God wants you to suffer, or because God looks down on you and wanted to separate Himself from you.
God put Cherubim there because He Loves you.
He knew that, if mankind ate this fruit, you would remain trapped as you are forever. You would remain rebellious, broken, vain, immodest, arrogant, sinful. God knew you would have to make choices. You would have to overcome yourself and accept humility or you would not. He knew that love, true love could not be forced upon you. He knew love cannot be coerced. It has to be freely gifted. Your life on earth is your one chance to choose which path you will take.
By wishing Grandma fun at Bingo or cheers-ing Uncle Joe at the bar, we simply wish them an extension of the life they already had. If that is all there is to the afterlife, then what is the point of life here on Earth, what is the point of suffering, what is the point of death? What is the point of love?
The Three Aspects of Death: Physical, Sinful, and Final.
First is the physical death. This is the death we think of when a loved one dies. It is what happens at the end of a long battle with cancer, a high speed crash in a speeding car, a self-inflicted wound when one gives up hope for better than what we see here.
Physical death is the separation of body and soul. It is the wrenching away of a loved one from friends and family. It is the end of what our limited creativity grasps as the sole reality. Physical death leaves a hole in our hearts and a sweet longing to be reunited with this person again one day.
It is humbling to know that throughout human existence not one person escaped death. Even Jesus and His Blessed Mother, My Mary, did not escape death. Jesus submitted to death. Your Savior conquered death. The Christ defeated death, but He did not escape death. Neither did His sinless Mother escape death. The early Church Fathers shows us the Mater Dei died and was brought to Heaven body and soul through the power of her Loving Son. Neither her body nor her burial place has never been found despite all the Apostles’ and early Saints’ burial grounds having been found. Her death is a miracle, but it is still an inescapable death.
Death will happen to you. It will happen to each of us. You need to account for life and prepare for death rather than mourn, delay, or avoid either. You do this by facing first deaths courageously and fighting the power of living deaths with the same force your Enemy fights for your soul.
The second death involves all the little choices you make throughout your life. Second deaths come subtly. Many single moms know second deaths come from choosing to date the wrong guy, kiss the wrong guy, sleep with the wrong guy (Side note: The wrong guy is anyone you are not Sacramentally Married to), and finally Marry the wrong guy.
Second deaths happen more slowly and subtly too. Second deaths happen when sin convinces you to let your guards down just a bit. Second deaths open the window to temptation and evil. Second deaths come from lies you tell yourself. They come from simple, silly vanities and concern for appearance rather than substance. They come in the guise of opening your mind and thinking things that “aren’t that bad.” Second deaths come from following the crowds and doing what everyone else is doing. Second deaths come from not knowing right from wrong because you have not formed a godly conscience and strong will. Second deaths come from not reading God’s Word every day and learning to recognize and trust His Voice amid the noise. Second deaths come from not making time to sit alone before the Blessed Sacrament and learn WHO Love is. Second deaths come through busyness and materialism and self-importance.
Second deaths come from a desire to be loved and wanted and worthy. Second deaths come from a misunderstanding of what it means to be loved, wanted, and worthy. Second deaths come from a misconception of the self and of Love Himself. Second deaths come from not understanding the meaning and value of being The Lord’s Beloved.
Second deaths are hard to overcome. They start small and spiral out of control until you do not realize you are dying a final fatal blow. Second deaths deceive you into thinking you are living a “good enough” life and are a “good” person. owed eternal Bingo at the bar for being a good person.
Second deaths lead you to believe you are owed perpetual Bingo at the Bar for being that good person. What second deaths don’t tell you is that you will play every game in the Hell of third deaths.
The third death is final condemnation. It is the gnawing and gnashing of teeth. It is real. It is just. Most of all, it is chosen by those who descend to it. No one gets to third death without turning from Christ and His Mother as they call to you. The problem is that, in second deaths, many stop listening to calls of the Divine and start listening to the calls of the world. They don’t realize they have turned away from God or that, when they do turn away from God, they always turn toward Satan. There is no middle ground although few realize this.
Second deaths come from Satan’s subtle nets and lures. He does not ask you to frolic with him in the fires of the eternally damned. Instead, he calls you to Bingo and drinks at the bar and perpetual money making, better jobs, nicer homes, fancier vacations, prosperity, sexual partners, new relationships, and even good clean, distracting fun. He calls you through social media, distraction, inordinate attachments, jealousy, unforgiveness, and minor deceptions.
He calls you to think you have all the time in the world to prepare for just another game of Bingo at the Bar.
Put Oil in Your Lamp Says the Voice of Love
Death calls with every decision, but do not despair. You are not left alone to combat the evil one’s beckoning. Another Voice, The Voice of Love, persistently calls you too. This Voice knows your weaknesses better than you do. He knows your wants and desires and secret longings of your heart. He knows, left alone, you are powerless against Death.
He who is The Voice of Love, Loves you beyond Death.
Because of Him, you can be powerful against death in all its forms. His is the Voice of sacrifice, of labor, and of Love. His is the Voice of quiet, of peace, and of serenity. His is the Voice openly saying, “Come follow Me” without subtle tricks or distractions. His is the Voice who does not promise an eternity playing Bingo, but an eternity of Grace and a transformed existence. His is the Voice who does not offer drinks at the bar, but the Blood from His own Body. His is the Voice whose greatest desire is for you to take His Sacred Heart as one with yours.
But your time is ticking. He Loves you too much to let you live on Earth forever. You must make seemingly insignificant decisions every day that will lead to your choosing which voice you will hear, recognize, and follow.
We receive insight on Death by looking to this Sunday’s Gospel, which speaks of the ten virgins waiting for a magnificent bridegroom. Five foolish virgins bring no oil for their lamps. They are caught unprepared. These inattentive hopefuls were left in darkness unable to find their way to the bridegroom no matter how he called to them.
The other five prepared ahead. They took the time from their day. They thoughtfully made extra plans and considered where missteps might present distractions to their hearts’ desires. They considered where they might be lacking and watched for unforeseen obstacles. They did not rebel against unexpected scenarios. They were ready when the Voice of Love called. They recognized His timbre. They followed His call.
They took time to put the bridegroom first, and so they were seen, heard, Loved. They were found. They were embraced. They joined His heart. Their lives, as they once knew them, were completely, utterly, and fabulously transformed.
They would not escape death, but, thanks to the bridegroom’s Love, they would defeat it as can you! He calls to you in complete Love for you. His Heart beats for you.
Wait for Him. Plan for Him. Welcome Him. Light a lamp for Him. Love Him first and most.
Death Comes for Us All
While it is understandable to want to see Grandma winning Bingo forever, we cannot allow such shallow goals to be our highest hopes for eternity. Doing so does not prepare our souls for the reality that faces each of us as we alone, not with a crowd of virgins or family or friends who speak highly of us, meet our Advocate and face our Judge and Jury. At that time, there will be no distraction, no shallow conversation, no platitudes or coverups to hide behind. There will be only Truth when confronted by Pure Love Himself who has spent your entire lifetime calling to you and seeing how you respond.
Shallow sentiments about how we will spend our time after death limit our imaginations and God’s Creativity.
It renders us worse than ancient foolish virgins. In the end, it will kill us and welcome us in to Death #3.
Be not foolish Mamas. Do not get sucked into fights over custody and child support and feelings of anger and bitterness. Do not get sucked into the vortex of being told you are trash and chasing memories down rabbit holes to see if that’s true. Do not consider that your loneliness is a heavier a burden than you can carry. Do not submit to distractions and temptations, small though they may be. Do not sell your beautiful body out with tight clothes and immodest dress. Do not believe any man willing to die for you wants to see you flashing your beloved self all over the place like that!
Beware of little second deaths. They lead to the heartbreak, unconsciously repeated patterns, and the endless revictimizations many single moms already know too well.
Be ever vigilant for the “little” deaths. Confess them fully and often. Embrace repentance. Humbly submit to penance. Glorify in a Hope beyond a row of five black dots on a stiff paper card and a shot glass slid across a glossy slab of wood.
Have hopes for something greater than big family reunions, which always have some level of strife to them anyway. Focus on the One who can bring it all together peacefully, joyfully, and lovingly. Allow yourself to be transformed to join the Loving Sacred Heart of Christ, so that, if you finally do meet Grandma and Uncle Joe and a slew of other loved ones in Heaven someday (God willing!) you have to re-introduce yourselves because of how beautiful and new and transformed you will all be.
If you want that to happen, if you really want to see Grandma and Uncle Joe and others in Heaven, use the power God has given you for you have more power than the Evil One, the Great Distractor, wants you to believe. You have power in the here and now and in all eternity!
Your power comes from having Masses said for deceased loved ones. Have Masses said for your children and loved ones while they walk the Earth, while they are still present and have decisions to make! Humbly ask parishes to pray for the living as we know them! Never underestimate the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass and the Body of Christ. Go to Confession and receive the Eucharist worthily. Fast, pray, and deny thy self. The ancient calls to Love are real and need to be listened to in this time of adversity. You have power in the Voice of Love. Do not squander it for Bingo and drinks or whatever temptation the Evil One who knows you so well, sends your way. An eternity doing what you enjoy on Earth will quickly lose its appeal! There is more to a holy death that this!
Pray for Wisdom to discern the way of Life and the Way of Death. Pray in silence until you learn to hear the Voice of Love which you have silenced for too long. Pray for the softening of your calloused heart and the courage to be vulnerable before your Eternal Bridegroom. Make your choices and preparations wisely. Trust in the Lord’s Voice. Fill your lamp with oil and actively, patiently, persistently seek only the one who is True Love.